January 2, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"This year, women around the country have staked out each other’s homes in the name of a quest that gained popularity during the pandemic: raising spirits by giving spirits, anonymously."

"Booze fairies, as they’re called, bring together the childhood thrill of ding-dong ditch with a side of Secret Santa and a dash of adult beverages. Sometimes, they wear wings and a tutu.... Booze fairies operate on a 'pay it forward' philosophy. Participants share their addresses (and alcohol preferences) with volunteer group leaders, who then assign them to various other fairies. Each gift basket comes with a new address to deliver to, and thus a fairy is born.... 'It’s hard to make friends. I’m usually shy... This makes me feel useful. It’s amazing how a little surprise can make you feel excited about what’s next.'"

1. No comments section over there, so nobody to naysay about alcohol. 

2. What's the NYT revenue from alcohol ads?

3. That "'pay it forward' philosophy" is the "philosophy" of chain letters and pyramid schemes.

4. I don't remember seeing the phrase "ding-dong ditch" before. It's explained in the Wikipedia article "Knock, Knock, Ginger":
Knock, knock, ginger (also known as knock down ginger, ding dong ditch, chap door run, chappies, knock knock, zoom zoom and numerous variants) is a prank or game dating back to 19th-century England.... It involves knocking on the front door (or ringing the doorbell) of a victim, then running away before the door can be answered.... 
Victims of this prank are not likely to call the police, but if they decide to, the prankster can face charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace.... In Scotland, although the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 establishes universal access rights, the so-called "right to roam" is only permitted where the privacy of others is respected....

5. I found the NYT article via Metafilter, where somebody says, "Nothing sets my teeth on edge like the faux-cutesy phrase 'adult beverage.'" I hear it more as faux-sophistication. But there are plenty of grossly cute locutions for alcohol. I think! For some reason the only one I can think of right now is something that seems to come from the 1950s: "drinky-poo" (or "drinky-winky").

"Eighty-eight rarely seen drawings of Dante’s The Divine Comedy have been put on virtual display as Italy begins a year-long calendar of events to mark the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death."

"The drawings, by the 16th-century Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, are being exhibited online, for free, by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 'Until now these beautiful drawings have only been seen by a few scholars and displayed to the public only twice, and only in part,' said Eike Schmidt, the Uffizi’s director. 'Now they are published in full, alongside a didactic-scientific comment, where from [Friday] they will be freely available.'" 

The Guardian lets us know. Go here for all the artwork and the "didactic-scientific comment."

"President Trump took to Twitter Friday evening to make the unfounded assertion that Georgia’s two Senate races are 'illegal and invalid,' an argument that could complicate his efforts..."

"... to convince his supporters to turn out for Republican candidates in the two runoff races that will determine which party controls the Senate... Some Republican leaders are afraid that his supporters will take the president’s argument seriously, and decide that voting in a 'corrupt' system is not worth their time, a development that could hand the election to the Democrats."

I'm pretty sure the NYT wants to help the Democrats, so anything that looks like advice to Trump not to do what he's doing should probably be translated into an expression of fear that it might work. 

One might say that Trump's continued assertions about rigged elections keep Republican voters stirred up. They may get the idea that they need to win by enough to overcome the cheating. They may feel outraged that cheaters have been stealing elections and that it's crucial to fight back right now. 

Alternatively, it might be that Trump doesn't mind losing the GOP majority in the Senate. He might prefer to fight his way back to power in 2024 with his party excluded from power. He'll be more of an outsider and able to attack everything in a much more interesting and theatrical way if we're not distracted by the day to day efforts of McConnell et al.

January 1, 2021

New Year's dawn.







Open thread in the comments. Write about whatever you want.

"Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse’s new merchandise site signals ‘new era’ of criminal defense."

WaPo headline. From the article:
Jeff Neslund, a Chicago-based civil rights attorney and a former prosecutor with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, said the website “is dangerous for prosecutors” attempting to secure a conviction in the pending trial, because it has the potential to taint a jury pool. 
“You’re going to have a lot of people who want to be on this jury to help this kid because they have an agenda, so prosecutors will have a tougher time to do their homework to flush those people out,” he said. “But if someone says they never saw the website, what are you going to do? Check their browser history?” 
[John Pierce, a Los Angeles-based attorney for Rittenhouse] Pierce defended the site, saying “the notion of a fair trial was blown out of the water” when celebrities and political figures used the case to portray Rittenhouse “as a mass murderer and white supremacist.” 
“All we are doing is defending his reputation and telling the truth,” Pierce said. “He has a constitutional right to that. There’s nothing wrong or inappropriate to it.”

If you click on the link to the website — which WaPo provides — you don't get to what I'd call a "merchandise site." It looks like a somber presentation of the facts of the case. It does have links across the top of that page and one of them is labeled "store." If you click on that, you get to a page that says, "We're making some adjustments." According to WaPo, the website had "more than 30 apparel items and accessories emblazoned with the logo 'Free Kyle' and a slogan, 'Self-defense is a right, not a privilege.'"

A highly rated comment over there is: "Imagine what would have happened if ISIS had opened a store to celebrate its murders. The victims should swoop down NOW and grab every blood-soaked penny. This act in support of terrorism is an outrage."

"Bob Ross was wrong. Everybody can't paint.... I just want people to know that none of the trees in my paintings are happy. They're very unhappy...."


I'm excited about this because I loved John Lurie's old show, "Fishing With John."

"Minneapolis police shot and killed a man who allegedly opened fire on officers during a traffic stop Wednesday night..."

".... sparking new tensions in a city still deeply on edge since the police killing of George Floyd in May and the fiery unrest that followed. Scores of protesters quickly arrived at the site of the shooting, a gas station parking lot in South Minneapolis, about a mile from the intersection where Floyd was killed, facing off in below-freezing temperatures with police officers clad in riot gear, some clutching batons and cans of pepper spray. The tense scene, reminiscent of clashes between police and demonstrators in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, continued into early Thursday and prompted calls for peace from Minneapolis officials anxious to avoid a repeat of the May unrest that left parts of the city burned and destroyed. On Thursday evening, dozens of people began gathering at the gas station again for a vigil.... The body-camera footage appears to show the driver fire a shot through his window.... Word of the shooting quickly spread on social media, including rumors about the race of the suspect and how many times he had been shot and where...." 

You have to read the long article carefully to see that we're not told the race of the man who was shot dead by the police. We're not told, even though the writer of the article seems to have watched the video — "The body-camera footage appears to show the driver fire a shot through his window." Can't we hear what the race the driver "appears" to be? Is it simply that it's a delicate matter, guessing what race a person is? Or is it that if they say he appears white, people will say different things that if they're told he appears black? 

We're not even told what the "rumors about the race of the suspect" were! It seems most likely that the rumors were that he was black, since people were drawn out to a protest. But what if the dead man turns out to have been white? Would protest leaders shift to saying the problem is police brutality against all races? I note that they could say the police only kill a white man when he's actually firing a shot right at them. 

"Instead of receiving applause and purple hearts for the resurgence of a school, you find yourself maligned by a few feebleminded creeps."

Said Joe Clark, quoted in "Joe Clark, Tough Principal at New Jersey High School, Dies at 82/Bullhorn in hand, he roamed the hallways as he imposed discipline, expelling 'miscreants' and restoring order. Morgan Freeman portrayed him in the film 'Lean on Me'" (NYT). 
When Mr. Clark, a former Army drill sergeant, arrived at Eastside High School in Paterson in 1982, he declared it a “caldron of violence.” He expelled 300 students for disciplinary problems in his first week.  When he tossed out — “expurgated,” as he put it — about 60 more students five years later, he called them “leeches, miscreants and hoodlums.”...

Mr. Clark, who oversaw a poor, largely Black and Hispanic student body, denounced affirmative action and welfare policies and “hocus-pocus liberals.” When “60 Minutes” profiled him in 1988, he told the correspondent Harry Reasoner: “Because we were slaves does not mean that you’ve got to be hoodlums and thugs and knock people in the head and rob people and rape people. No, I cannot accept that. And I make no more alibis for Blacks. I simply say work hard for what you want.”

I'm surprised that the NYT allows comments. Comments on an obituary? I don't think that's the norm. But I can see why they wanted comments here, and I appreciate it. The film — which I've never seen — is remembered fondly by many people, and of course, the love for Morgan Freeman is lavish. But everything I'm reading in the obituary strikes me today as so archaic. Anyone talking like that today... it's hard to picture!

Here's the top-rated comment: 

"Came across this show last week while browsing Netflix and now I can't sleep before watching an episode. Might be the rain, the aged diner, the calm..."

"... and polite conversations that take me back to my childhood growing up in a rural country. Now stuck physically in a noisy concrete jungle in the US but its this 22 mins of calmness that puts me to sleep." 

A post at the subreddit r/MidnightDiner.

"His motive remains unclear. Police said that detectives believe he knew the spoiled doses would be useless..."

"... and people who received them would mistakenly think they’d been vaccinated when they hadn’t. Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters during a teleconference Thursday afternoon that the pharmacist deliberately removed 57 vials that held hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration at a Grafton medical center overnight on Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of Dec. 25 into Saturday.... Bahr said the pharmacist initially said that he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to put them back.... Bahr declined to comment on the pharmacist’s motive. He said the hospital system’s security protocols are sound. 'This was a situation involving a bad actor,' he said, 'as opposed to a bad process.'" 

I'll put up a poll just to demonstrate what I think is obvious:

What's more likely?
pollcode.com free polls


Now that he's almost gone — right?! — it's safe to enjoy the fun that was Trump.

The Guardian has "From covfefe to the Mooch: 10 funny moments from the Trump presidency." They still must ward off outrage with a pissy subtitle: "Amid four years of corruption, caging children and trashing democracy there were some light-hearted moments – no really."

My favorite:

December 31, 2020

Hey! I stayed up ‘til 9!

 Happy new year, everybody... and good night!

The tundra swans are back on Lake Mendota.

This morning at sunrise: 

"In Scottish custom, Unspoken Water was water believed to have healing properties when collected 'from under a bridge, over which the living pass and the dead are carried...'"

"'... brought in the dawn or twilight to the house of a sick person, without the bearer’s speaking, either in going or returning.'... The custom is long obsolete. The 1901 The Book of Saint Fittick by Thomas White Ogilvie contains an elderly woman's account of being 'the last wife in Torry to cure a bairn wi' unspoken water ... comin' or gaun I spak' tae naebody — for that's what mak's unspoken water.'"

From "Unspoken Water," Wikipedia, clicked on from "Religion and Water," Wikipedia, which I was reading to pursue some ideas that occurred to me as I was listening to the song "Drifting Too Far From the Shore," which Meade has been playing — in various versions — all morning. (The Dylan song with virtually the same title is different, but influenced by this old song.)

The Scottish meaning of "unspoken" is "Without having spoken" — according to the OED, which quotes an 1825 Scottish dictionary: "Unspoken water, water..brought..to the house of a sick person, without the bearer's speaking either in going or returning."

Orgasms and sandwiches.

From a post at Reddit about the 1973 book "Understanding the Female Orgasm" by Dr. Seymour Fisher:
something I found googling his name.... "Part of the early research leading to that book found that women who enjoyed food were likely to enjoy sex as well, and that put a twist into the Fishers' social life, Rhoda Fisher said. 'When we got to somebody's house for dinner,' she said, 'no women wanted to sit near him. They thought he'd analyze their food.'"
If I had to choose between an orgasm and like a really good sandwich, I'd pick the sandwich. I don't know what that says about me. 
Absolutely. If I had to live without orgasming for the rest of my life, I'd feel a bit sad and frustrated, but if I had to live without really good sandwiches, I would be undone...
Just yesterday, I complained on another post my orgasms are pretty meh so it was such an easy choice. Give me a fricken sandwich with everything on it!!

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade says, "And remember— you can’t fake a sandwich."

I google "marcel marceau eats a sandwich"... 


 ALSO: "Once I ate a hamster sandwich...."

AND: We all remember when Warren Zevon said "Enjoy every sandwich and you know what I mean by sandwich."

Precise opportunity seized.

Last midnight: "2020, 24 hours to go..." (my son John, at Facebook, embedding "I Wanna Be Sedated").

"Mr. Hawley’s challenge is not unprecedented... Democrats in both the House and Senate challenged certification of the 2004 election results..."

"... and House Democrats tried on their own to challenge the 2016 and 2000 outcomes, though without Senate support. ... Senator Barbara Boxer of California... briefly delayed the certification of George W. Bush’s victory... cit[ing] claims that Ohio election officials had improperly purged voter rolls... which Mr. Bush carried by fewer than 120,000 votes. Nancy Pelosi, then the House Democratic leader, supported the challenge.... The House voted 267 to 31 against the challenge and the Senate rejected it 74 to 1...  After the 2016 election, several House Democrats tried again, rising during the joint session to register challenges against Mr. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in various states. The Democrats cited reasons ranging from long lines at polling sites to the Kremlin’s election influence operation."

So... in the last three decades, every time a Republican won, Congressional Democrats challenged the certification of the election, and every time a Democrat won, Congressional Republicans did not challenge the certification.

That certainly puts a different light on what Josh Hawley is doing!

Either challenging the certification is the norm or it is not. It can't be the norm for Democrats and abnormal when a Republican does the same thing. Either Congress has a role in looking into the workings of the state elections or it does not. It can't be that the role is to question Republican victories and rubber-stamp Democratic victories.

I can see — in the NYT write up — the basis for arguing that there actually should be a lopsided role. To fill out something I elided above: "In challenging those results Democrats cited claims that Ohio election officials had improperly purged voter rolls and otherwise disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters in the state...." 

The argument that's hinted at is that there should be heightened scrutiny where the challenge has to do with discrimination against a traditionally discriminated against group. 

December 30, 2020

At the Overnight Cafe...

 ... you can write about whatever you want.

"Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Wednesday he will object when Congress counts the Electoral College votes next week, which will force lawmakers in both the House and Senate to vote..."

"... on whether to accept the results of President-elect Joe Biden's victory.... The objection will not change the outcome of the election, only delaying the inevitable affirmation of Biden's victory in November over President Donald Trump. Democrats will reject any objections in the House, and multiple Republican senators have argued against an objection that will provide a platform for Trump's baseless conspiracy theories claiming the election was stolen from him. Hawley's objection, which other senators may still join, will also put many of his Senate Republican colleagues in a difficult political position, forcing them to vote on whether to side with Trump or with the popular will of the voters."

"A pack of young bicyclists attacked a BMW in broad daylight in Manhattan, terrorizing the man and woman inside in a terrifying ambush caught on video."

"Several assailants surrounded the luxury ride at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, with some pounding the vehicle with their fists and feet, and another smashing a bike down on top of it...  One attacker got a running start, vaulted up on the hood of the BMW and jumped on top of the windshield, causing it to partly cave in... The same group similarly attacked a cab a short time later...."

Big overnight snow storm.

How it looked from our window at 6:58 a.m.: IMG_1963

"Russian riot police stormed into a monastery Tuesday to detain a rebel monk who has castigated the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church leadership and denied the existence of the coronavirus...."

"Authorities charged [Father Sergiy] with inciting suicidal actions through sermons in which he urged believers to 'die for Russia.'...  When the virus arrived in Russia early this year, the 65-year-old monk denied its existence and denounced government efforts to stem the pandemic as 'Satan’s electronic camp.' He has described the vaccines being developed against COVID-19 as part of a global plot to control the masses via chips.... The monk chastised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a 'traitor to the Motherland' who was serving a Satanic 'world government.'...  In his fiery sermons, he... glorified Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II."

Andrew Sullivan detects anti-gay bigotry: "So you agree not wanting to have sex with someone because they have a vagina is a form of bigotry, right?"

I had trouble understanding whether Molly — DFW was (at any point) joking. Until she says, she's free to say (at any point) that she was joking. (Cf. "Schrödinger's Douchebag " (Urban Dictionary "Word of the Day," December 24, 2020.)

Does genitalia matter? I can see thinking that a person's inner being matters far more than what's on the outside, and that "gender identification" is part of what's on the inside, but when it comes to sexual attraction, we're not required to go solely by what's on the inside, and indeed, if only the inside — the mind — counts, why are we having sexual intercourse at all? How can you say genitalia is irrelevant when what you're talking about is something you do with your genitalia?

ADDED: We shouldn't conflate rejecting somebody socially with rejecting somebody sexually. It's one thing to be respectful and friendly to all sorts of people, quite another to be open to having sex with them. 

This is all very ordinary. We all have our standards. Any given heterosexual person might think: I don't want to have sex with anyone who's overweight or not good looking. You'd be awful to behave disrespectfully to such a person socially, but there's nothing wrong with not wanting to have sex with them. 

But these 2 kinds of rejection merge when you start speaking openly about your sexual preferences. It's one thing to think to yourself there's no way I'd have sex with a fat/ugly man/woman, but you would be thought ill of if you said that out loud. If Sullivan makes a big deal about the penis as the sine qua non of gay sex, he's a bit like the heterosexual man who says "No fatties." Your speech is in the social realm. You can refrain from stating what is, in fact, your strict policy. 

But speaking publicly about sexual preference has been a big part of the gay rights movement:

"I’ve been against the space program.... After all, we knew there were no resources we could economically bring back from [the moon], and we knew there was no atmosphere."

"Even if the whole thing were paved with diamonds, that wouldn’t help us much. So it seems like a vaudeville stunt. A lot of scientists felt it was money that might be spent in other areas of research. What it was was money spent on engineering. It might as well have been an enormous skyscraper or a huge bridge or something like that. It was publicity and show business, not science. John F. Kennedy was largely responsible for it. He was competitive. He was a tough, joyful athlete and he loved to win. And it wasn’t a bad guess, really, that this might cheer Americans up and make us more energetic. It didn’t quite work out that way, but Kennedy, in his enthusiasm for this thing, was really wishing the best for the American people. He thought it might excite us tremendously.... It seemed childish. It seemed childish even to children. My children simply weren’t interested. There was nothing they wanted on the moon. A third grader knows there’s no atmosphere there. There’s nothing to eat or drink, nobody to talk to. They already know that. There’s more that they want in the Sahara or on the polar icecap.... They picked colorless men to make the trip, because colorless men were the only sort who could stand to make it. In science-fiction stories, people on spaceships are arguing all the time. Well, people who are going to argue shouldn’t go on spaceships in the first place."

Said Kurt Vonnegut in a 1973 interview with Playboy.
Playboy: You said it was sexual. 

Just so we're clear...

Backstory: "Dick Cheney hunting accident" (Wikipedia).

"In what is probably the definitive word on how little exercise we can get away with, a new study finds that a mere four seconds of intense intervals, repeated until they amount to about a minute of total exertion..."

"... lead to rapid and meaningful improvements in strength, fitness and general physical performance among middle-aged and older adults.... Ed Coyle, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas in Austin, and his graduate assistant Jakob Allen suspected that even 20-second spurts, performed intensely, might exceed some exercisers’ tolerance. So, he decided to start looking for the shortest possible interval that was still effective.... [Volunteers aged 50 to 68] sprinted for four seconds, with Dr. Allen calling out a second-by-second countdown, followed by 56 seconds of rest, repeating that sequence 15 times, for a total of 60 seconds of intervals. Over two months, though, the riders’ rest periods declined to 26 seconds and they increased their total number of sprints to 30 per session. At the end of eight weeks, the scientists retested everyone and found substantial differences. On average, riders had increased their fitness by about 10 percent, gained considerable muscle mass and strength in their legs, reduced the stiffness of their arteries and outperformed their previous selves in activities of daily living, all from about three to six minutes a week of actual exercise."

"The statue by Thomas Ball depicts a Black man, shirtless and on his knees, in front of a clothed and standing Abraham Lincoln."

"In one hand, Lincoln holds a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, while the other is stretched out over the Black man. Ball intended it to look as though the man were rising to freedom, but to many, it looks like he is bowing down or supplicating to Lincoln. Boston artist Tory Bullock, who started the petition, described it this way: 'I’ve been watching this man on his knees since I was a kid. It’s supposed to represent freedom but instead represents us still beneath someone else. I would always ask myself, "If he’s free, why is he still on his knees?"'"

From "Controversial Lincoln statue is removed in Boston, but remains in D.C." (WaP). There are 2 identical statues, the original in Washington and a replica that was in Boston. 

The original statue "was commissioned and paid for by a group of Black Americans, many of whom were formerly enslaved," but they "did not have a say in the design of the statue; that distinction went to an all-White committee and the artist, Ball, who was White." 

Frederick Douglass was present at the unveiling in 1876, and he criticized the statue in writing a few days later: "What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man." 

The question "If he’s free, why is he still on his knees?" is interesting. Whenever stationary art depicts an action, we see a stage of the action. We're in the middle of things. How do you make a statue of a person rising up? If you show him already fully standing, you might lose the expression of the action...

... you don't need to show this figure that close to the ground. And Lincoln looks still and lordly. It is a strange artifact. It's artwork from the past, never the greatest art, but carrying the weight of history, history that includes Frederick Douglass wanting to see a better image of a black man before he died.


I looked to see what year Douglass died. It was 1895. I clicked through on the name of his first wife, Anna Murray Douglass:

December 29, 2020

At the Sunrise Cafe

IMG_1946 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I loathe domestic life.... I don’t want anyone in my house that I don’t know when they are leaving, so I don’t want there to be anyone else in the house."

"So you’ve never had a live-in relationship?"/"Never! That’s what I’m saying, never! Never. I never did it. I never would do it. I don’t want to do it. I have no interest in it. I don’t like domestic life like that. I am not that share-y a person; I’m not accommodating in that way, in any real way. I have zero ability or desire — the only monogamous relationship I have had in my life is with my car. That is my monogamous relationship; I still have that car, the same car, yes, and the reason that I still have this car is because, unlike humans, I am not tired of the car."

From "Fran Lebowitz vs. the World Talking (on a landline) with the star of Martin Scorsese’s cranky, necessary love letter to New York, Pretend It’s a City" (New York Magazine). I'm quite sure it's not necessary, but it's on Netflix, so I will check it out.

"Like Nietzsche’s Socrates, Trump was 'the buffoon who got himself taken seriously.' Unlike a Socratic buffoon, however..."

"... Trump never overcame himself. Bereft of the wider critique that once confounded political elites, his personality cult is no longer compelling even as a vessel for ressentiment. Its chief acolytes today are the legacy media operations whose fortunes his nonstop controversies helped revive, opportunistic scribblers hoping to cash in on one more #Maga or #Resistance potboiler, and those who prefer that the media focus on anything except the substantive issues raised in 2016. They will happily ride the Trump gravy train as far as it goes, but it’s already running out of steam." 

Here's the context of "the buffoon who got himself taken seriously," from Nietzsche’s "Twilight of the Idols":
With Socrates, Greek taste changes in favor of dialectics. What really happened there? Above all, a noble taste is thus vanquished; with dialectics the plebs come to the top. Before Socrates, dialectic manners were repudiated in good society: they were considered bad manners, they were compromising. The young were warned against them. Furthermore, all such presentations of one's reasons were distrusted. Honest things, like honest men, do not carry their reasons in their hands like that. It is indecent to show all five fingers. What must first be proved is worth little. Wherever authority still forms part of good bearing, where one does not give reasons but commands, the dialectician is a kind of buffoon: one laughs at him, one does not take him seriously. Socrates was the buffoon who got himself taken seriously: what really happened there?

William Gibson — deploying the old "grocer's apostrophe" — says something inscrutable about Nazis and the Space Force.

"One of the more unexpected character arcs of the Trump era is the emergence of 'Dilbert' creator Scott Adams as a pro-Trump political commentator."

"Adams, a 'trained hypnotist' with a self-proclaimed expertise in the rhetorical dark arts, has made any number of dazzlingly confident predictions over the last four years. But few are quite as grim as his March 12 tweet predicting that before November 3, Sanders, Biden and Trump would all contract Covid-19 — and one of them would die from it. It’s December, the election is over, and all three men are still alive. Though Trump did contract coronavirus before Election Day, after a hospitalization and VIP treatment, he quickly recovered."

From "The Worst Predictions of 2020/This year was impossible to predict. But that doesn’t mean people didn’t try" (Politico). Lots more predictions at the link. Unfortunately, they're all about either coronavirus or the elections. 

Our wild year.

"This is the best gift idea I've ever had."

"We're told Biden doesn't have a 'vision.' He doesn't. We’re told he doesn’t have an ideology. He doesn’t. But he has a public image..."

"... which is that he’s a middle-class guy in the center who knows what he doesn't like — and he doesn’t like departures from common sense. In this initial, breath-gathering post-Trump moment, that might do as a Vision Substitute. It’s not asking not what your country can do for you or having a dream or a shining city on a hill or 'as Americans that is not enough we must be equal in the eyes of each other.' It’s just 'C'mon man.' Like Biden, it might do." 

December 28, 2020

Sunrise with snow.

IMG_1914 IMG_1901

"Successfully making art requires accepting yourself, in Mr. Koons’s philosophy, so that you can pursue your interests without shame."

"'Everything about your past is perfect,' he says. 'Everything up to this moment about you is spectacular.' ... I found myself mindlessly nodding along, as he compares an ashtray that he remembers loving as a child, with a reclining woman holding her legs aloft, to Michelangelo’s 'Pietà.' 'How can that be any less than this masterpiece by Michelangelo?' he says. 'It’s equal.'... He asks himself, 'What have I been pulled to? What have the interests been lately?' He believes this will work for you, too.... "

I subscribed to MasterClass a while ago. I think I watched 3 courses. Really enjoyed David Sedaris and David Mamet. Both Davids taught about writing. The only other one I watched was Bobbie Brown teaching about makeup. That was sort of okay. I think the overall experience is one of encouragement: You can do it too. 

But are you really encouraged? Do you go on to do the things that are supposedly being taught, or are you only feeling something called encouragement, admiring somebody whose work you like, and nothing more?

"Oakland’s Ceramic Bust Of Breonna Taylor Smashed In Brazen Act Of Vandalism."

CBS Local reports.

Who would do such a thing?

If you've been having trouble with the "Dr. Jill" nomenclature, just see it as a stage name... a sobriquet... a nom de guerre...

This is a solution I'd been thinking about ever since the controversy broke a couple weeks ago (or whenever that was), but I felt pushed over the edge to blog about it when I was driving in my car, listening to the "Bridge" channel on the satellite radio, and this came on:


Dr. Hook. That's a stage name. 
The "Hook" name was inspired by Sawyer's eyepatch and a reference to Captain Hook of the Peter Pan fairy tale, although, humorously, Captain Hook was neither a doctor nor wore an eyepatch. Ray Sawyer had lost his right eye in a near-fatal car crash in Oregon in 1967, and thereafter always wore an eyepatch. The eyepatch led some to believe that Sawyer was 'Dr. Hook'....
You can help me fill out the list of pop culture figures who use the honorific "Dr.," but I'll just note Dr. John...



.. and Dr. Demento...

There are a lot of nicknames and pseudonyms in American culture, and "Dr." is a popular component. No need to act like it's sacrosanct and not available for appropriation at whim. 

ADDED: Dr. Fink! ("Fink joined Prince’s band in 1978, which later became The Revolution.... In 1987, Fink opened his own studio facility in Minneapolis, now called 'The Operating Room'"). Nice view of the doctor — mask and all — at 0:28:

I feel lured into talking about Hilaria Baldwin, but what do I want to say? What did I say about Rachel Dolezal... and is this the same... or worse... or better?

I thought I could get away with dropping this one seemingly juicy sentence from The Washington Examiner....
But while, say, the New York Times decided that Hilaria's cosplaying as a Latina stereotype was off-limits — even as they wrote growing profiles of her as well, including uncritically her "slight Spanish accent" — the paper of record has celebrated children having their college admissions revoked for a video of them singing the N-word along to a song when they were 15 as a "reckoning." 
I found that because it has Rachel Dolezal in the headline ("Alec Baldwin's wife became Hollywood's Rachel Dolezal because of our sniveling, bootlicking press"). 

But come on — "they wrote growing profiles." Presumably, that should be "glowing profiles," Hilaria Baldwin has posted many selfies where she's standing sideways to display her pregnant belly. But no, that's not something the NYT can write. Here's the glowing profile in the Times, from back in 2014: "Hilaria Baldwin Holds Her Center" ("Her voice betrays a slight Spanish accent, remains of a childhood split between Boston and Spain").

I wonder how many people are faking accents... and why (and when) we feel a person acquires a pleasing air about them because of that. Oh! Just by chance, last night I watched an episode of "Friends" where the Friends were extremely irritated by a woman who'd acquired a fake English accent:


Interestingly enough, that's the episode with blackface...

That episode — "The One With Ross's Tan" — has more thematic unity than I originally thought!

Well, clearly, blackface is a very specific problem that has been isolated, and everyone has been warned about it, so violations are harshly judged. The same is true of the "n-word," though the presence of lots of recorded music with the word creates confusion for young people who might not understand that this is the ONE thing you don't sing along with. 

But accents... accents are different. You can do fake accents... can't you? I've seen people pick up a New York accent or a Southern accent... to try to fit in or to be thought well of. Many actors do accents and get special acclaim. Meryl Streep, etc. etc.

So must Hilaria Baldwin be denounced because she's doing what she's doing while being a highly privileged person? Or are accents different from skin darkening? 

ADDED: As for the article where the NYT "celebrated children having their college admissions revoked for a video of them singing the N-word along to a song when they were 15 as a 'reckoning,'" here it is: "A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning/A white high school student withdrew from her chosen college after a three-second video caused an uproar online. The classmate who shared it publicly has no regrets." Excerpt:

It's not the strict adherence to a plan... it's also the strict avoidance of trying to do it very well — 4 decades of rigorous anti-perfectionism.

ADDED: Here's the New Yorker article. Excerpt: "Her strain of snapshot conceptualism, profoundly personal and eminently personable, could have been overwhelmed with minutiae or weighed down by retrospective insight. Instead, with its light touch and searching, unsmiling star, the book breathes with open-ended nuance."

"Trump reverses on coronavirus stimulus deal, signs package he called a 'disgrace.'"

 USA Today headline.

Is that a "reversal"? 

After weeks of negotiation and bipartisan votes of approval in the House and Senate, Trump on Tuesday unexpectedly slammed the COVID stimulus legislation but stopped short of saying he would veto it. The message upended Washington, drew bipartisan condemnation and threatened to end a chaotic year with a government shutdown. 


But after a growing number of Republicans pushed back on Trump's reticence – and Democrats quickly embraced Trump's idea of larger direct payments and used it as a cudgel against GOP lawmakers – Trump relented. The president, who has been spending the holidays at his Florida resort, hinted he had won concessions from lawmakers but it was not clear if that was actually the case.

December 27, 2020

At the Sunday Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

When you're alone and 5G is making you paranoid, you can always go... downtown....

The Daily Mail reports: 
Speculation is growing that the AT&T building was intentionally targeted in the Nashville Christmas Day bombing as the FBI probes rumors that the main suspect in the attack harbored deep paranoia about 5G technology. 
Police on Sunday confirmed that Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, is a person of interest in the investigation launched when an RV exploded outside Nashville's AT&T building on Friday morning, leaving three people injured and dozens of structures damaged. 
At a press conference police officers described how the RV, which was covered in cameras, played an ominous warning about the impending explosion and the song 'Downtown' by Petula Clark in the minutes before the blast went off.

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city/Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty/How can you lose?

How can you lose?

"Although Westerners date the origins of restaurants (those independent of inns) to post-revolutionary France, when chefs were suddenly freed..."

"... from the kitchens of the aristocracy, in Japan restaurants began more than one hundred and seventy years earlier, after the Tokugawa Shogunate instituted the system of alternate attendance (sankin kotai) to prevent its feudal lords (daimyo) from overthrowing it. Because after 1615 daimyo were required to divide their time between their fiefs and Edo, leaving their wives and children in the capital as hostages, a vast economic system grew up to support not only their travels but their substantial, non-productive retinues in the capital. Not only restaurants but all kinds of commerce, including shipping, banking, department stores, theaters, fine arts and crafts, have their roots in Tokugawa Period Edo, which by 1700 was one of the largest cities in the world. As the merchant class grew and prospered, its money and desires created something new and original: nightlife. Those familiar with the woodblock prints and paintings known as ukiyoe–the 'Floating World'–have seen the denizens of Edo’s vibrant nighttime culture: the geisha..., kabuki actors, singers, dancers, storytellers, wrestlers, merchants, prostitutes, masterless samurai and revelers who flocked to the entertainment district of Yoshiwara.... That world lives today in mizushobai, 'the water trade,' the wonderful Japanese term that denotes all the nightlife businesses.... In contemporary Tokyo, mizushobai is centered in the Kabuki-cho section of Shinjuku, where 'Midnight Diner' is located...."

I'd resisted Netflix for a long time but recently subscribed because I'd watched "The Crown" during our short stay in an Airbnb in Nashville, Indiana last month. I've settled in to a style of watching TV, with a few series mixed in with all those old episodes of "The Crown." The one that has established itself as our favorite is "Midnight Diner."

"It is with a heavy heart we say goodbye to one of the most iconic voices and musicians in bluegrass. David Anthony ‘Tony’ Rice passed away yesterday, Dec. 25, at his home in Reidsville, NC. Few will ever match his skill and influence."

Said the International Bluegrass Association, quoted in Variety
Rice was “the single most influential acoustic guitar player in the last 50 years,” said Ricky Skaggs, who played alongside Rice in the group the New South in the 1970s and later rejoined him for a classic duets album, “Skaggs/Rice.”... 
“Sometime during Christmas morning while making his coffee, our dear friend and guitar hero Tony Rice passed from this life and made his swift journey to his heavenly home,” Skaggs wrote. “

"You have, then, the calm conservatism of George H. W. Bush and the fevered conservatism of Patrick Buchanan; the balm of Jeb Bush and..."

"... the bluntness of Donald Trump; the moderation of Theresa May and the flamboyance of Boris Johnson; of Angela Merkel, perhaps the most properly conservative of our contemporary leaders, against the radical outliers of reactionary German nationalism. Fawcett sees this as the core conflict within the right, always present, forever waxing or waning, and central to the future of Western democracy."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, in a NYT review of "CONSERVATISM/The Fight for a Tradition" by Edmund Fawcett. Fawcett calls himself "a left-wing liberal."

The quote I cherry-picked has Sullivan contrasting the conservatism of Edmund Burke — who "believed in pluralism, modest but necessary reform and the dispersal of power" — with the conservatism of Joseph de Maistre — "who found adaptation to modernity to be indistinguishable from surrender" and "saw decline everywhere and always, enemies within and without."

I'm struck by the silliness of the phrase "the balm of Jeb Bush." 

Sullivan makes the contrast between moderates and radicals sound like a matter of physical heat. And the best people are the ones whose nature is to remain cool. This distaste for "flamboyance," "bluntness," and "fever" is openly elitist — as we see in the last paragraph:
Moderate conservatism is a vital counterbalance to liberalism, as the Trump years have shown. For it to disappear into a populist cult, hostile to democratic norms, contemptuous of all elites, captured by delusions and sustained by hatred and ressentiment, would not be completely unprecedented. But, unchallenged by moderate conservatism, populist or “hard right” conservatism will be deeply destructive. In that sense, the battle for moderate conservatism is now inextricable from a battle for liberal democracy itself. 

IN THE COMMENTS: hawkeyedjb says:

Liberals pretend to respect Moderate Conservatism, but when a moderate conservative like Mitt Romney comes along, they turn him into an evil, money-grubbing, cancer-giving Hitler youth. Just one example out of many that comes down to the same thing: all Republicans, of any stripe, are Hitler in the end. So why not be Trump?
That's a different perspective on what — to use Sullivan's phrase — "the Trump years have shown."

"Ms. Petro said she and her husband still make time for sex, even if it’s just, say, every third Sunday. 'I shove thoughts of chores undone out of my mind...'"

"'... and just try to relax into my body and be present for my partner,' she said.... 'People get very wrapped up in the idea of spontaneously desiring sex,' Dr. Nagoski said, but, especially in women, it’s fairly rare. Based on a wide body of research on gender and sexual desire, Dr. Nagoski estimates that roughly 15 percent of women experience spontaneous desire, whereas most experience responsive desire — wanting sex when something erotic is happening."